Like the Peregrine falcon, with which it often considered conspecific(2)(3)(4)(5), the Barbary falcon exhibits dazzling aerial mastery and speed (6). Although this medium to largish falcon is similar in appearance to the peregrine, it is a notably slimmer bird with a less broad head and a shallower chest. The upperparts to its plumage are generally blue-grey while the head has a distinctive pattern comprising a brown cap, rufous forehead, nape and sides of the crown, and dusky patches around the eyes. These patches extend down into a thin dusky moustache and back into an eye-stripe that together outline a creamy cheek patch. The throat is whitish, but otherwise the underparts are cream to cinnamon with light black spots or streaks on the belly. The primary feathers are dark while the undersides of the long wings are thinly barred, and the short, square tail is broadly barred black. Although the sexes are similar in appearance, the female Barbary falcon is substantially larger in size (2). Two subspecies of the Barbary falcon are recognised: Falco pelegrinoides pelegrinoides and the slightly larger and paler F. p. babylonicus (2)(3).
Limited information has been published on the Barbary falcon (5), but like the peregrine, this raptor feeds chiefly on birds (3), which it normally takes in mid-flight and often at high speed (4). The nests are typically located on high cliff faces, but this falcon will also utilise man-made-structure, such as electricity pylons and buildings to breed, and will sometimes use the nest of another species (3)(5)(7). The clutch size is three to five eggs, which are incubated for 28 to 30 days. Although some birds disperse short distances in the non-breeding season, most are resident in one area year round (3).
Falco pelegrinoides pelegrinoides occurs from the Canary Islands, eastwards across parts of North Africa, and through the Arabian Peninsula to Iraq and possibly western Iran (3)(5). Falco pelegrinoides babylonicus occurs in Asia from eastern Iran to Mongolia and Pakistan (3).
Although the global population (as of 2009) of the Barbary falcon is estimated at just 5,000 birds, the population trend for this widespread species appears to be stable. As a consequence, it is currently classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List (8). However, there are localised threats to the Barbary falcon, such as in the Canary Islands where falconers are known to poach fledglings from the nest, and pigeon fanciers are known to directly persecute this bird of prey (9).
del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
Rodríguez, B. and Siverio, M. (2006) Density and habitat characteristics of an insular population of Barbary Falcon Falco peregrinus pelegrinoides (El Hierro, Canary Islands). Ardeola, 53: 325 - 331.
Firouz, E. (2005) The Complete Fauna of Iran. I. B. Tauris Publishers, London.
Rodríguez, B., Siverio, M., Rodríguez, A. and Siverio, F. (2007) Density, habitat selection and breeding success of an insular population of Barbary Falcon Falco peregrinus pelegrinoides. Ardea, 95(2): 213 - 223.
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